ExcelAire winging it west to Oakland

By GREGORY ZELLER //

ExcelAire has landed in Oakland.

Actually, the MacArthur Airport-based charter-flight manager has maintained and operated a privately owned Legacy 600 jet based at California’s Oakland International Airport for about a month now, noted ExcelAire President Greg Brinkman. But this week, the company officially announced the opening of a new office at Oakland International, its first satellite office since the fixed-base operator launched as Eastway Aircraft Services back in 1985.

While the four-person office at OIA gives ExcelAire an obvious two-coast presence, Brinkman said the company chose Oakland specifically because “one of our clients is stationed there, and this is most convenient for him.”

That client – Brinkman would only say it’s a “corporate customer” – owns the Legacy 600, a model derived from the ERJ 145 line of twin-engine, regional commercial jets produced by Brazilian manufacturer Embraer.

The plane is similar to another swanky Embraer jet recently added to ExcelAire’s fleet. Like the Oakland plane, that Legacy 600 – one of about 230 currently in service – is owned privately but operated and maintained by ExcelAire, a subsidiary of worldwide aviation-services provider Hawthorne Global Aviation Services.

The Legacy 600 is designed to be operated by a two- or three-person crew and can accommodate up to 14 passengers. With a maximum speed of 518 miles per hour and an operational range of about 3,700 miles, the plane puts all 50 states within range.

ExcelAire’s plan out west is to charter flights for third-party passengers when the plane isn’t in use by the primary client, according to Brinkman.

“It will be a comfortable mix between client use and outside charter,” he told Innovate LI, noting ExcelAire officials consider it a stroke of good fortune that the owner of the latest Legacy 600 to join the company’s fleet is based in California’s busy Bay Area.

“There’s incredible demand for private-jet charter service in the San Francisco Bay area. Now, we can provide our customers with access to our offices on both the East and West coasts for their added convenience, while continuing to deliver unmatched levels of service to our aircraft owners and charter customers.

“We think we’ll do a great job chartering the airplane there,” he added. “Oakland is a great airport and we’re going to do a lot of business there.”

While many services, including flight reservations and other scheduling protocols, will be performed remotely, the satellite office’s four-person staff will focus on promoting ExcelAire’s services to potential Bay Area clients, Brinkman noted.

The bulk of ExcelAire’s operations are still performed at the company’s 200,000-square-foot-plus headquarters at LIMA, with the California team working primarily to “stimulate business,” the president added. Between the two offices, the company now employees 145 people, including office administrators, sales professionals, ground crew and pilots.

In addition to giving ExcelAire its first West Coast foothold, the Oakland office represents one of the farthest reaches west for Hawthorne Global Aviation Services. The circa-1932 conglomerate owns fixed-base operators – commercial businesses contracted by airports to provide aeronautical services including fueling, hangering, flight instruction, aircraft maintenance and more – in Georgia, Illinois, Wisconsin and Islip.

While ExcelAire isn’t planning to open offices at any other airports in the near future, the Long Island company might not be done expanding. Brinkman cited ongoing negotiations with several private-jet owners – both individuals and corporations – and said ExcelAir is hoping to substantially increase the fleet of planes it owns and operates with new arrangements similar to the ones involving its latest Legacy 600s.

“We have proposals out for a handful of airplanes that we’re hoping to close on soon,” Brinkman said. “But we won’t know about any of them until we sign on the dotted lines.”

Including its new Oakland-based jet, ExcelAire now boasts a fleet that includes five Legacy 600s, a midsize Learjet 60 (comfy for six to eight passengers) and a number of “heavy” jets, including a Gulfstream G-V – an international workhorse that nearly doubles the Legacy 600’s operational range – and a state-of-the-art Falcon 900EX, a French-made luxury jet that replaces mechanical cockpit gauges with all-glass multifunctional displays and boasts a cruising altitude greater than 51,000 feet.